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Punctuation and the Public Speaker

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Last week, in my Long Beach Writing Examiner column I honored National Punctuation Day with a post about paying attention to punctuation. You can read it at Paying attention to punctuation.

Then yesterday, a friend sent me this image:

And this got me to thinking how punctuation, although used as a visual cue for readers, can be just as important for speakers. In fact, when you’re writing your speech, it can even be more important!

Punctuation translates into the spoken word as pauses and inflections. These are very important things to plan and use strategically when giving your presentation.

There is a reason the phrase “pause for effect” exists.

The length and placing of your pauses gives your words emphasis and power when used correctly … and distracts and drains from them when used ineffectively.

Punctuation can be used as a shorthand cue on your notes when you need to use them.

  • Ellipses (…) can be used to note where longer pauses go.
  • Double exclamations (!!) can remind you to raise your voice or pound the lectern.
  • Quotes (“) can be used to remind you to change the quality of your voice to indicate someone else’s voice.

Even if you aren’t reading notes, thinking about punctuation and how you can use it to strategically get your message across while developing your presentation can have great advantages for you.

In fact, you might use punctuation more heavily for the spoken word than you would for the written word. This is because when the words are written, a reader can go back if they don’t understand something. But spoken words are ephemeral … they are released into the air and gone. So make each one count. Punctuation can help.

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About the author

Carma Spence, The Own Your Awesome Mentor, is author of Public Speaking Super Powers. She is fiercely committed to guiding women to Owning their Awesome and turning it into a profitable business. She is masterful at helping her clients see what is possible for them and supporting them on the journey from where they are to where they want to be, releasing the Mind Goblins of self-doubt, self-sabotage and second-guessing that keep them stuck.

With 20+ years experience in marketing communications and public relations, natural intuitive skills and certification in using some of the most effective transformational coaching tools available, Carma’s mission and commitment is to unleash the inner power every woman entrepreneur possesses so they can boldly go out into the world, transforming the fabric of people’s lives in meaningful and positive ways.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Her website is